As National Teen Driver Safety Week, this has been an opportunity for teenagers, parents, and government officials to discuss important facts related to distracted driving, graduated licensing laws, and other safety issues for young drivers. Noticably absent from the calendar is a week focusing on safety for teen bicyclists.
Of course, on some level this is understandable. Driving related accidents — especially related to distracted driving — are the number one cause of death for teenagers. And the League of American Bicyclists hosts an annual Bike to Work Day. But bike safety and driver safety programs are not mutually exclusive, and government agencies should consider boosting programs that support the former.
Each year, bicycle accidents are responsible for about 30 deaths and more than 5,000 injuries of people under 24 years of age in California alone. 90% of bicycle deaths have been blamed on neglecting to follow simple safety instructions, like always wearing a helmet, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. California’s bike safety laws only require people under 18 years of age to wear a helmet, but doing so drastically reduces risk of death for all ages.
Fortunately, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership has taken a giant step toward improving bike safety here in California. The group announced this week that California’s transit agency, Caltrans, will put $50 million toward Federal Highway Administration funds to improve bicycle and pedestrian paths across the state. Encouraging local officials to apply for these funds, SRSNP California policy manager Jessica Meaney said “[Highway Safety Improvement Program] funds are eligible for work on any publicly owned roadway or bicycle and pedestrian pathway or trail that corrects or improves the safety.”
We are supportive of this week’s admirable events related to teen driver safety. Taking a cue from their playbook, the Caltrans funds should be coupled with a comprehensive program to train children and teenagers about bicycle safety, especially when it comes to wearing helmets, in order to achieve the most success.